November 4, 2008

Ridiculous service at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

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A couple of friends of mine decided to catch up over lunch today, and we picked L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon as the venue. I have only had dinner here, and I looked forward to trying out their lunch menu.

I was given a choice to sit either at the counter or at a table inside, and I was told that I could have the set lunch at either location.  Of course I chose to sit at a table inside for the comfort factor.  I arrived on time and waited for my friends, who were busy with work and showed up much later.  When I finally got my hands on a menu - more than 30 minutes after I arrived, I realized that the set lunch menus were different in the two areas.  I had wanted the $390 set being served at the counters, while one had to order the $580 set dining at a table.

I was a little upset.  While I always knew that the a la carte menus were different, the person on the phone did not tell me about the different menus and pricing. I asked a waiter to change to counter seating so that we can have the $390 set. They informed us that they cannot fit a party of four, and asked us to wait. We called a manager to discuss the situation. The guy was totally unapologetic, and was willing to do nothing. My friends and I start to get really upset.  It was now 1:30pm, and we haven't been able to order the food, let alone start lunch.

While I know that for some reason, L'Atelier has this stupid rule about keeping the menus for the two areas separate, I felt that in this instance, the manager is clearly being ridiculously inflexible. In order for him to keep to his rule, he would rather have 4 paying customers sit around waiting for seats at the counter, even though they are already seated at a table and could be served immediately. What was really ridiculous was his insistance that the staff on the phone was absolutely correct - since one can have a set lunch both at the counter and at a table inside. Basically this is how he sees it: if I needed to know more - such as whether they are the same set lunch or different ones - well then, it's my fault for not asking a direct question. The staff is under no obligation to voluntarily disclose that information.

The manager walked away, still insisting that we wait for seats at the counter instead of serving us at the table. 1:40pm came and we were on the verge of walking out to get lunch somewhere else, when a waiter came to tell us that we can now sit at the counter. Team decided to stay for lunch since we were already there, but the damage was done.

There is absolutely no excuse for this kind of service, especially from an establishment purporting to be one of the best in the city. The food was excellent as one would expect. But why would I bother to return to a restaurant that gives me shitty service with that kind of attitude?! I did take pictures and did plan on describing the dishes and my experience, but at this moment, I have zero inclination to do so.

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